Illinois House 56th District Democratic nominee: Michelle Mussman
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Democrat Michelle Mussman is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 56th district Illinois House race. She faces Republican Jilian Rose Bernas in the general election.
On Oct. 12, Mussman appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why she’s running.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board also sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Mussman submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Mussman: Clearly, we need to continue to prioritize repairing the state’s fiscal health. At the same time, we have a responsibility to invest in the people and the future of Illinois. That is why I fully support investing in our social services so that the state’s most vulnerable citizens can have access to important, often life-saving, programs, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings for working women, assistance for people with developmental disabilities, and in-home care for our seniors.
Additionally, I support increasing funding for all our schools, from pre-K to our universities, so that our young people can achieve their goals, no matter where they are from or how much their family makes. When those students are done with their education, we need to ensure that there are good-paying jobs available to them. That is why I support helping small and medium-sized businesses compete with multi-million-dollar corporations while also raising the wages of workers. We must stand against the dangerous, union-busting agenda of Bruce Rauner and his extreme allies to lift up the middle class.
Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.
Mussman: When I go door-to-door, there are many issues that the residents of my district discuss with me. Many people are worried about the high property burden they are faced with, which is why I support cutting property taxes for all homeowners, especially our seniors and veterans. I also am committed to working with local officials to find a solution that cuts property taxes while ensuring that our municipalities can continue to provide services to the community.
There are also many people in my district who have a developmental disability, which makes it difficult for them to find work or go to school. That is why I serve on the Appropriations-Human Services committee and am the Chairwoman of the Special Needs Services committee. During the governor’s 2.5 year budget crisis, there were service providers who work with persons with disabilities that were forced to shut their doors on the people who need our help the most. We cannot continue to allow these programs to go without proper funding, which is why I support requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share and closing corporate loopholes.
There are also many people who are scared about the actions that the Trump Administration has taken against middle-class families, whether through attempts to cut healthcare coverage for people with preexisting conditions, tearing families apart at the boarder or cutting access to basic healthcare services for women. I am committed to doing everything that I can at the state level to implement policies that can block the extreme rules and policies that are coming out of Washington. That is why I supported legislation that would require insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, prohibit law enforcement from detaining an individual without a warrant because of their immigration status, and remove trigger language that would make abortion illegal in Illinois if Roe vs. Wade was repealed.
Who is Michelle Mussman?
She’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 56th District
Her political/civic background:
- Full-time legislator
- Schaumburg Business Association, member
- Northwest Alliance on Domestic Violence, chair
- Women In Need Growing Stronger (WINGS), leadership board
- Children’s Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County, leadership board
- Enders-Salk Parent Teacher Association, former president and treasurer
- Schaumburg Township Council of Parent Teacher Associations, former first vice president.
Her occupation: State Representative
Her education: B.S. in Design from the University of Cincinnati
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Mussman: There are a couple vital differences between me and my opponent. While I have always made it a priority to put the needs of the middle-class families of my district first, which you can see through my voting record, my opponent is more concerned with the needs of the ultra-wealthy individuals backing her campaign. While Bernas would fight against efforts to make millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share, I have consistently fought to make our tax system more fair to the middle class and carried legislation through the House that would not only freeze, but actually cut property taxes (HB 156, 100th GA). I also stood up for middle-class taxpayers by opposing the 2017 income tax rate increase.
Bernas also supports anti-women policies that are too extreme for the 56th District. She opposes the Equal Rights Amendment and House Bill 40 (100th GA) even though both measures were highly favored by residents in my district because they know that women deserve to make equal pay for equal work and have full autonomy over their own bodies. I supported these measures because that is what the people of my district want, and my opponent’s opposition to these policies shows she is out of touch with the district and too extreme on issues that impact Illinois women directly.
Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?
Mussman: The population decline of the state is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I think we made an important first step when members of the legislature from both parties voted to override the Governor’s veto last summer to enact a state budget and also by passing a bipartisan budget earlier this year. I think another thing we need to look at to reverse this problem is to call on the governor and his extreme allies, such as my opponent, from constantly bashing the state using only negative rhetoric.
While I am aware there are serious problems that need to be addressed, such as our backlog of bills, our high property taxes and our pension obligations, we need to be aware of how it appears when the Chief Executive Officer of the state speaks poorly about our state to potential investors and businesses that could relocate to Illinois. We need to highlight the great things about Illinois, like the fact that we were ranked one of the best states for working mothers and outranked all neighboring states by Business Insider in May 2017. We also need to keep the state moving forward and not get mired in political games. We have a responsibility to the people of Illinois to work together and come up with true, comprehensive solutions to fixing the state’s problems, and absolutely avoid the gridlock that led the state to go without a budget for 2.5 years and put the lives of our most vulnerable citizens in jeopardy.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Mussman: We need to require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share and close corporate loopholes so that we have the revenue to reduce the liabilities. We cannot continue to let the middle class carry the bulk of the tax burden to pay these obligations.
From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?
Mussman: If we want students to stay in Illinois, then we need to make our state universities more affordable. For 2.5 years during the governor’s budget crisis, some state universities were on the brink of closure because one man refused to compromise on true solutions to fix the state’s problems. If we require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share then we will have more revenue to put towards our universities and reduce the financial burden on students.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Mussman: I supported several measures this year that aim to reduce gun violence in the state, such as banning bump-stock modifications, requiring gun dealers to be licensed and allowing family members to legally have the guns of a loved one removed if they feel they are a threat to themselves or others. I also introduced House Bill 5939, which would ban 3-D printed guns from Illinois.
Additionally, we need to ensure that mental health services and violence prevention programs are being funded so that people can get the help they need without feeling like they need to resort to violence as a solution to their problem. We also need to invest in job training programs and economic development programs so that people can go to work instead of participating in criminal activity. This is a serious problem that we need to spend attention on and recognize that, if we are truly going to reduce gun violence in Illinois, then we need to have a full understanding about and start addressing the problems that are causing the violence.
On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?
Mussman: I support making sure that workers are not overworked and that their employer is giving them the appropriate time they need to care for their loved ones. I also support requiring giving employees enough notice and a consistent schedule so that if they have children they can find affordable childcare. I am open to working through this issue and developing a system that protects workers but does not put too much of a burden on small and medium-sized business owners.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Mussman: I do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state since my district’s residents have concerns that it could increase the levels of opioid addictions and could be a gateway to the use of other drugs. That being said, I did support the expansion of medical marijuana since people facing serious medical conditions use it to ease symptoms and they should be able to ease their pain the way that works best for them.
Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?
Mussman: I supported the Heroin Crisis Act (HB 1, 99th GA) to help address this problem, and I will continue to fight to ensure that substance abuse services are funded so that people with substance abuse addictions can receive the help that they need. We have also passed laws to increase access to mental health care, increase the availability of the anti-overdose drug Naloxone, and require more immediate insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment.
Unfortunately, for 2.5 years during the governor’s budget crisis, lack of state funding led some treatment facilities to close, leading some people with heroin and other substance abuse addictions to go without the help that they desperately needed. In order to help our substance abuse service providers to fully recover from the impasse and also handle the increasing number of people struggling with addiction, we will need to increase funding for these programs.
The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?
Mussman: I voted against the act due to the electricity rate increases that were a part of the legislation because I do not believe that consumers should be on the hook for bailing out multi-million-dollar corporations. That being said, I do support investing in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency because global warming is a serious problem that needs to be addressed so that future generations have a planet to enjoy. I am committed to finding solutions that reduce pollution in Illinois while putting people to work. My record on environmental issues and on promoting job growth is why I have the endorsements of both the Sierra Club and the AFL-CIO.
What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?
Mussman: I support making sure that Medicaid beneficiaries are receiving high-quality care at a low cost; however, Gov. Rauner’s administration has recently made major changes to the Medicaid managed care program, including adding more patients to it while reducing the number of companies participating, without full transparency and with little thought to the impact that it will have on the quality of their care.
Rather than increasing quality and access to care while reducing costs by keeping Medicaid patients healthier, the managed care program has allowed multi-million-dollar insurance companies to monopolize a state-funded program with little oversight, resulting in more taxpayer money being kept by the insurance corporations and less being spent on care for patients.
We have the responsibility to remember that there are people’s lives in jeopardy every time a change is made to the Medicaid program, so moving forward we need to make sure that all Medicaid changes are thoroughly and transparently vetted and to work in a bipartisan fashion to create a well-thought-out plan to ensure Medicaid patients receive quality care at a low cost to the state.
Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?
Mussman: Just like all our state’s vital services, we need to make sure that we are properly funding the Department of Corrections. Properly funding the Department of Corrections not only will help keep Illinois residents safe, it will also help potentially reduce recidivism and lower the overall crime rate. We provided a supplemental appropriation to the Department of Corrections this year in order to help relieve its previous year budget shortfall. Moving forward we need to continue to examine the Department’s budget for efficiencies and provide additional funding only if truly needed. I would look towards requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share and close corporate loopholes to address any funding shortfalls.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Mussman: People should be required to serve their sentence as decided by the courts. I believe the state should refocus on improving education and expanding job opportunities in communities in every part of the state, especially low-income communities, to help prevent crime before it occurs.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.